• Author: Rena Barron
  • Debut MG-Book 1 of a Trilogy; 2nd published novel
  • Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy
  • Background-Black with West African Ancestry
  • IG-@Renathedreamer, Twitter-@renathedreamer, Facebook-@Renathedreamer1
  • www.renabarron.com; http://renabarron.com/maya-and-the-rising-dark-activities/
  • Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17797267.Rena_Barron
  • Release Dates: 09/22/2020
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Kids
  • My Favorite Character-Frankie…who WOULDN’T love an insanely intelligent Black Girl?! She’s the peanut butter to Maya’s jelly!
  • Favorite Quote(s)-“Eli sighed, slapping his forehead. “She means well… She’s just a little socially awkward.”‘-Eli about Frankie…listen, we all shade our friends so I see no issue with this, lol. One more: ‘”Observable matter in the universe can’t explain the motions of stars and galaxies.” Frankie nudged up her glasses, which had slipped to the tip of her nose. “So scientists think there must be unobservable matter that’s affecting gravitational forces.“‘-Frankie to Maya. First of all…the nerdy glasses push is my whole life #GlassesTribeStandUp. Second of all…the energy of this nerd out is EVERYTHING!

When I was getting ready to start this post, I noticed that this post will be up almost a year & a month exactly from when my post about Kingdom of Souls went up, which was my FIRST book review/reaction here EVER…so this is extremely meaningful to me. I’m such a fan of Rena’s work and I’m honored to be apart of a blog tour for her work (which I would’ve done a post anyway) with TBR And Beyond Tours for Maya And The Rising Dark (click the link for the blitz schedule). More information about the book such as the synopsis will be at the end of my commentary!

I read Maya And The Rising Dark back in July and fell in love with Maya, her story and her squad! It was everything I didn’t know that my 12 year old self and adult self needed. Maya is a girl who is about her family, her friends, and her community (basically, she’s about that life). She deeply cares about those around her and wants for her people to be okay. Not only is she super compassionate but she’s highly intelligent, motivated (except when it comes to math, which I can definitely relate) and loyal, along with being a daddy’s girl. When other’s doubted what could be done, she had her mind made up to make sure that what other’s thought impossible wouldn’t be. Maya showed that when you follow your heart and your instincts, you can prove people wrong…and it made the petty in me really happy to see her make happen. She’s just so dope and the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.

Maya also has an awesome squad (this seems to be a theme for Rena…I need to know her friend circle cause she has the best literary friends), Frankie and Eli! They all compliment each other in such great ways, especially in how they support each other…even if it’s so they don’t miss out on an adventure *looks at Eli*. They are so great at brainstorming together, problem-solving and grounding each other as well as changing the leadership role when necessary & following each other’s lead. When I was 11/12 years old, I was actually in transition back from Georgia to New York (my 10-12 years were really rocky) so friendships were really tough for me; I was having trouble finding my footing, getting to know my now best friend (it’s been 20+ years for us) and reacquainting myself to my past friend group. Remembering this about that time frame in my life makes me appreciate the friendship dynamic of the Godlings squad (you will find out what this means when you read the book *wink* *wink*) even more.

Frankie is a ridiculously intelligent girl and I LOVE IT! She reminds me so much of my best friend who is also incredibly intelligent, which is probably another reason why I loved her so much. Her nerd out moments were just life giving and while Eli & Maya may not have always enjoyed it, her wealth of knowledge turned out to work in their favor…also, she’s apart of #GlassesTribe so that put her in the fav spot! She owned her intelligence, confidence and her belief of Science & reasoning…she’s the Blerd girl that we all need in our lives and this generation deserves! Frankie is also a great balancer for Maya and Eli!

Eli is also super cool and is a big fan of the paranormal. I, too, have a thing for the paranormal though I’m not quite as obsessed with it as he is. He was onto something about his community being haunted without knowing that he was (this is a hint but you have to read the book to get the reference). Eli also had some of the best one-liners throughout the book. Another thing I loved about him is how concerned about and devoted he is to his grandmother & younger sister…it’s so sweet and we aren’t always shown that side of Black Boys so it was super refreshing to see that. We need to see more Black Boys who are kooky and loving.

Another thing I loved about this book is how the Orishas were woven into the story. Since I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone…just know that it is FREAKING BRILLIANT! The way that they were hidden in plain sight and then showed themselves….it was just *chef’s kiss*. I sincerely love the ways that Rena incorporates the Orishas into her work and how she is sharing them with this generation. I wish I had books like this that shared this system of belief and the Beauty of these divine entities. It’s such an honor to be alive in a time where we are able to see ourselves and our cultures represented in various ways in books. This aspect of Maya And The Rising Dark (and Kingdom of Souls too) that makes me appreciate it so much more.

Maya And The Rising Dark is a book about family, friends, community, pride and perseverance. A book that I believe represents this generation of kids so beautifully. The way that this generation is standing up and speaking out for themselves and those around them is nothing short of awe inspiring…and should be a lesson/wake up call for the adults around them that they are truly leaders who are willing to fight and will bring better days in this world, just as Maya and her friends sought out to do, even if it wasn’t their intention at first.

Seriously, if you haven’t pre-ordered Maya And The Rising Dark, please remedy that or run to your local Indie to grab a copy orrrrrrr request it from your local library (any of these methods are a win)! There are links further down this post where you can pre-order/order from. I did an IG live (for a hot second, Rena was in on it but we will be rescheduling since there was technical difficulties) where I Geeked out about MATRD, KOS and other things…you can watch it here. Also, Maya And The Rising Dark is the Magical Black Kids Book Club November book so if you want to join us, fill out this form to be added to the mailing list (kids are the focus but adults are welcome to join)! On the real, this book is amazing and you should definitely get your hands on it, ASAPUALLY!

Happy Reading and sending Bookish love your way! Feel free to find me on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic or Twitter @bookishgrlmagic for more bookish banter!


In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39726908-maya-and-the-rising-dark

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Maya-Rising-Dark-Rena-Barron/dp/132863518X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1563163166&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/maya-and-the-rising-dark-rena-barron/1132050955?ean=9781328635181

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Maya-Rising-Dark-Rena-Barron/9781328635181?ref=grid-view&qid=1597191776204&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/maya-and-the-rising-dark/9781328635181-item.html?ikwid=Maya+and+the+Rising+Dark&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=a35cb729a155062f128098dc67444475

About the Author:

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

From a very young age she loved reading stories where kids saved the world, tamed dragons, wielded magic, flew spaceships, became the chosen one. She desperately searched for characters in books who looked like her and was always disappointed to find none, which fueled her early interest in writing.

Before HarperTeen acquired her Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Kingdom of Souls, Rena spent 10 years in the query trends–writing across multiple genres and age groups in the pursuit of publication. In 2017, she entered Pitch Wars, a popular and highly sought-after online mentorship program that included an agent showcase round. Rena’s entry (then titled “The Last Witchdoctor”) received multiple offers of representation. She signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary shortly after, and the manuscript went on to sell in a heated auction.

In addition to the Kingdom of Souls series, Rena also has written a middle grade epic fantasy titled Maya and The Rising Dark debuting in Spring 2020, pitched as Stranger Things meets Percy Jackson, that sold in a pre-empt to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On a personal note, Rena loves all things science fiction and fantasy, ghosts, and superheroes. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Published by bookishgirlmagic

I’m reader who has a fierce love for books written by authors of color & belief in the importance of supporting them! My mission is to amplify their voices and work so this generation and all the others after them will have literature that will reflect them.

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